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may tit be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear: and annoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Laodicea seems to have been a place of trade. Trade usually produces riches; and riches, pride, indifference in divine things, and spiritual wretchedness. There were three things of which these people had very wrong notions; namely, riches, beauty, and discernment. They thought an increase of goods made them rich; that the splendid figure which on that account they cut among the churches, made them beautiful; and that their philosophical knowledge, it is probable, made them wise. But they had been for each of these commodities, if I may so speak, to a wrong market; namely, to the world. If they would possess either, they are told to deal with Christ for it. The counsel of Christ is as if he had said, 'Trade with me. Part with all your own frippery for spiritual things, and learn to derive these from me. They are articles with which none else can supply you. Count my grace your riches, and part with your dross for it; my righteousness your ornament, and part with your own for it; and my word and Spirit that which is able to make you wise unto salvation; and come to me as fools in your own eyes.'
Britain, like Laodicea, is a place of trade: trade has produced riches; and riches, pride, indifference, and spiritual wretchedness. If there is any people therefore in the world, to whom the counsel to Laodicea is applicable, rather than to others, it seems to be the churches of Britain. What is addressed to them, therefore, I shall understand as if it were immediately addressed to us.
The principal thing contained in this counsel, is, that we Deal With Christ; and this is the subject with which I shall close this paper. As Christ is the only way to which we are to point lost sinners to repair for salvation, so he is the only way in which we can make any progress in real religion. As ye have received Christ Jesus, says the Apostle, so walk ye in him. Neither is there any other way of returning to God, when we have backslidden from him. To return home to God, is to return to a close walk with him, to a serving him acceptably, and with godly fear; and to this end, we must have grace: but there is no way of obtaining grace, but by dealing with Christ. It hath pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell; and it is out of hit fulness that toe all must receive, and grace for grace.
Christ is a believer's life; the bread of life, the water oflife, the tree oflife, the vine that communicates life to the branches. Each of these metaphors implies that we cannot live at all spiritually, without union to him; so neither can we be lively and fruitful, without close communion with him. If we be strengthened with might in the inner man, it must be by Christ's dwelling in our hearts In) faith, or in other words, by his having place in our thoughts, desires, and best affections.
Those three things concerning which the church at Laodicea was counselled; namely, spiritual riches, spiritual beauty, and spiritual discernment, can neither of them be obtained but by dealing with Christ. It is not enough for us to be once interested in pardoning and justifying grace: if we would be rich in the sight of God, we must be dealing with Christ as guilty, self-condemned sinners, for forgiveness and acceptance. It is not enough that we reckon upon going to heaven when we die: our conversation must be there even now ; there must be a correspondence kept up between Christ and our souls, or we shall be poor and miserable indeed! Nor is it enough that we confess our sanctification. or spiritual beauty, to come from him: there must be a daily dealing with Christ for the mortification of sin, and for the increase of grace and peace. Our garments are not to be made white, or beautiful, but by being washed in the blood of the Lamb. There are very few, if any of us, who are sufficiently sensible of our entire dependence upon Christ for sanctification. But whatever methods we may take to promote it, short of dealing with him, they will not do. We may become beautiful in our own eyes, like Laodicea; but shall be miserable and naked in the sight of God.
What is the reason of the multitude of contradictory sentiments at this day, even upon the great doctrines of the gospel, which are written in the scriptures so plain that he that runs may read them? Is it not for want of dealing with Christ for wisdom? We may think, and reason, and dispute, all our life-time; but unless we become » fools in our own eyes, and rely upon the word and Spirit of God for instruction, we shall be wretchedly blind to the real glory of the gospel. Spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. Without this eye-salve, whatever be our conceit of ourselves, we shall not be wise. It is by an unction from the Holy One that we know all things, and without that unction we know nothing as we ought to know it. We are not to abandon either thinking, reasoning, or «n all occasions even disputing; but to take heed that they be so exercised as not to interrupt, but promote, our correspondence with Christ.
There are certain sentiments and feelings which are necessary and encouraging in our returning to God ; such as a deep sense of the evil nature of sin, godly sorrow for it, and a hope of forgiveness on our return; each of which is produced and promoted by a dealing with Christ
Where can we learn the evil of sin, so as it is to be seen in the death of Christ? True, it is to be seen in the glass of the law, and in the moral character of God; but it never was seen, nor can be seen, in so odious a light as that in which it appears on Calvary. And here indeed it is that we not only see the evil of sin, but view the law and moral character of God in all their glory. What an idea must it afford us of God's displeasure against sin to see him pouring out his wrath upon his dear and only-begotten Son; exposing him whom he loved more than all the creation together, to ignominy and death, rather than suffer it to go unpunished! Christian, the more thou art acquainted with Christ, the more bitter, unnatural,disingenuous, and shameful, will thy sin appear to thee.
What will open the springs of godly sorrow for sin, like an intimate and close dealing with Christ? If any thing will dissolve the hardness of our hearts, it is the consideration of his dying love. If we are brought to mourn as one that mourneth for an only son, and to be in bitterness as one that is in bitterness for his first-born, it is by looking upon him whom we have pierced. Come, backsliding Christian, come but to the Saviour's feet, and thou shalt soon be able to wash them with thy tears.
Finally: What can afford us any hope and encouragement to return to God, but the name of Christ? It is in him alone that we can obtain forgiveness. He is the advocate with the Father, to whom they that have sinned are encouraged to look for relief. It was his blood in which David prayed to be washed from his uncleanness, and blood-guiltiness. Under all our guilt, darkness, and confusion, let us not despair. We have an intercessor for transgressors before the throne; a faithful and merciful High Priest, who was tempted in all points like unto us, yet without sin; and in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. Let us consider how he interceded for those that were in the world. I am no more in the world, but these are in the world: holy Father, keep them: Think of the Lord's having laid upon him the iniquity of us all; even of such as like sheep have gone astray, and turned every one to his own way—of his being able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us. Think how he expostulates with us, invites us to return in the most melting language, and stands with open arms to receive us: O that there were such an heart in them; that they would love me and fear me, and keep all my commandments always! O that my people had hearkened to my voice; then had their peace been as a river, and their righteousness as the waves of the sea!—Set thee up way-marks, make thee high heaps; set thine heart toward the high way, even the way that thou wentest! Return, 0 thou backsliding children, for 1 am married unto you, saith the Lord.—Take with you words, and turn to the Lord; say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of our lips ; for in thee the fatherless ftndeth mercy.—Iunll heal your backslidings; I will love you freely. I will be as the dew unto Israel; and he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I am like a green fir-tree ; from me is thy fruit found.
If this, or any of the foregoing papers, may be the means of reclaiming any from the error of their ways, either mental or practical; if they might tend to excite either myself or others to a closer walk with God, I shall enjoy the satisfaction of not having written in vain.
ON FINAL RESTITUTION.
Of all tbe sentiments advanced in the religious world, there are few perhaps that are likely to have a greater spread than that of final and universal salvation, or the release of wicked men and devils, at some unknown period after the day of judgment. It is not supposed that this sentiment is attended with such convincing evidence as must bear all before it: far from it; but it is a sentiment suited to the corrupt passions and prejudices of men; and we know the propensity of our own minds to believe a thing to be as we would wish to have it.
It is one presumptive argument, however, against the sentiment referred to, that it is destitute of real utility. Admitting it to be true, of what use is it? Who are encouraged by it? Not the upright, they are safe without it. It is the ungodly sinner, if any. He is encouraged, it is true; not however to forsake his sins, or to flee to the remedy; but to conclude that he shall have peace at last, though he walk after the imagination of his heart, to add drunkenness to thirst. If it be a truth, it seems to be of such a nature that the world would be much better without the knowledge of it than with it. On the other hand, admitting it to be an error, it must be allowed to be tremendous in its consequences. Nothing ought more to be dreaded than that which tends to deceive the souls of men, and that in matters of everlasting consequence!
The following thoughts are not offered as a discussion of the subject, but merely as what may throw some light upon one particular passage of scripture, upon which it is frequently grounded. This-passage is in Acts iii. 21. Jesus Christ—whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of alt things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world